Sony vs. Sony: Smackdown at the Weekend Box Office

With two films, the animated "Hotel Transylvania" and sci-fi thriller "Looper" targeting different demographics, Sony should dominate the weekend box office

Last Updated: September 27, 2012 @ 5:51 PM

Sony is doubling down at the box office this weekend, with sci-fi thriller “Looper” and the animated kids movie “Hotel Transylvania” both hitting theaters Friday.

After four consecutive weeks of grosses that trailed last year’s comparable weeks, the box office could use some resuscitation. Sony’s one-two punch should connect and could drive a rebound, say industry analysts, who project three-day totals in the $20 million range for both films. The studio sees "Hotel Transylvania" doing even better than that.

Also debuting this week are “Won’t Back Down,” a drama about school reform from Fox, and the musical comedy “Pitch Perfect,” which Universal is platform-releasing.

The weekend's widest release is the animated "Hotel Transylvania," which Sony TriStar has in 3,349 theaters.

It features the voices of Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Kevin James, Selena Gomez, Steve Buscemi, Fran Drescher, Molly Shannon, Cee Lo Green and Jon Lovitz. Genndy Tartakovsky, who executive- produced the TV series "Star Wars: Clone Wars" directs.

In the movie, Dracula (Sandler), who operates a high-end resort away from the human world, goes into overprotective mode when a boy (Samberg) discovers the resort and falls for the count's teen-aged daughter Mavis (Gomez).

Also read: 'Hotel Transylvania' Review: Hey, This Sucker Is Really Funny

The impressive voice cast could have some appeal to adults. This is the first time Sandler has been in theaters — albeit disembodied — since "That's My Boy" cratered during the summer.

It's harder to gauge where is for kids these days. Recent releases "ParaNorman" and "Finding Nemo" underwhelmed, so young audiences could be ready for something fresh or remain distracted. For its part, Sony is bullish on its prospects and compares it to its 2009 release, "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs," which bowed to $30.3 million. The production budget was $85 million.

Fresh from opening the Toronto International Film Festival, “Looper” arrives with plenty of buzz and a slew of good reviews. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt and Jeff Daniels star in the time-travel saga written and directed by Rian Johnson (“Brick”).

Also read: 'Looper' Review: Stylish Time-Travel Tale That Loses Race With Clock

Gordon-Levitt (photo left) plays a hit man plying his trade in the year 2044, taking out targets once they're sent back in time from 2072. It’s not bad work until one of his victims turns out to be a gruff old bruiser (Willis), who is in fact an older version of himself.

The critics love it. Ninety-one percent of the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes are positive, 83 percent on Movie Review Intelligence, and MetaCritics gives it an 85 rating.

R-rated sci-fi films, particularly originals, often play to a limited crowd, but the presence of  the veteran Willis and emerging star Gordon-Levitt could broaden the film's demographic reach. Comparable original sci-fi openings include last year's "Source Code" ($14.8 million opening) and "The Adjustment Bureau" ($21.2 million). 

The studio has it in 2,992 theaters. The production budget on the film is reportedly $30 million.

Universal is trying something different with “Pitch Perfect.” The PG-13-rated musical comedy stars Anna Kendrick as the new voice on her school’s all-girl a cappella singing group, determined to update the set-list with more up-to-date music. Rebel Wilson (photo left) co-stars and Jason Moore directs.

In a bid to build on the early buzz on "Pitch Perfect," the studio is rolling out the PG-13-rated comedy at 335 locations this week before going wide next weekend. More typically, a studio would sneak preview a movie the weekend before its wide opening.

"This one has sleeper written all over it," editor-in-chief Phil Contrino told TheWrap Thursday. He pointed out that Facebook "likes" for the film have spiked in the past week.

Also read: Bummer 2012 Box-Office Raises Critical Questions for Movie Biz

"People like to think they're discovering a new movie and tell their friends about it," he said, "and this kind of limited opening, providing the movie connects, will allow them to do just that."

Anything over $2 million for the weekend would provide a solid launch pad for "Pitch Perfect" next weekend.

"Pitch Perfect" was developed at Universal and is co-financed by Universal and Paul Brooks’ Gold Circle Films.  Brooks produced alongside Elizabeth Banks and Max Handelman for their Brownstone Productions company. The production budget was $17 million.

Fox’s PG-13–rated drama “Won’t Back Down” has generated plenty of heat, but it appears unlikely that will translate into ticket sales.

It stars Viola Davis (“The Help”) and Maggie Gyllenhaal in the tale of two single mothers, one a teacher, trying to transform their children’s elementary charter school in Pittsburgh. In the film, the two women utilize the new "parent trigger" law that allows parents and teachers to reclaim failing schools.

Fox hosted scores of word-of-mouth screenings across the country, in addition to special events at both the Republican and Democratic national conventions. The film has drawn the wrath of teachers, disturbed by the film's portrayal of the union as uncaring bureaucrats.

Most critics don't care for it. Just 35 percent of the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes are positive, 44 percent at Movie Review Intelligence.

The film, produced for a reported $19 million, was financed by billionaire Phil Anschutz's Walden Media. which was also involved with "Waiting for 'Superman."  Older women are the target demo for the film, which analysts see doing around $5 million over the three days. it will be at 2,515 locations.